Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Michael Getler Discovers Anonymous Sourcing

He's shocked to discover the Post's own standards for sourcing aren't being followed.

Maybe someone should send him a copy of Marvin Kalb's One Scandalous Story.
(from page 128)

The initial Washington Post story ran 1,608 words. It contained four "on the record" quotes - the crucial one from Lewinsky's lawyer Ginsburg, who confirmed that Starr was "investigating his client's involvement with Clinton"; one from presidential lawyer Bob Bennett, who said the president denied any such relationship; and two brief and inconsequential quotes from lawyers Hundley and Moody. It also quoted twenty-four anonymous sources, who were loosely identified in any number of ways. For example, there was one "source close to the investigation," used in the lead of the story; six references to "a source" or "the source"; four "according to a source or sources"; five "source or sources familiar with" (sworn statement, job history, testimony, document, her account); one "White House officials"; one "associate"; five "a Justice Department official or officials"; and one "a colleague." The "background/on the record" ratio was an unhealthy twenty-four to four, a pattern that improved only slightly in the Post coverage over the next few weeks.

...Until the breaking of this story, The Washington Post had rigorously abided by its two-source rule, imposed by Ben Bradlee during the Watergate scandal.

On a related note, go read the Howler.